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A Tradesman’s guide to hiring an apprentice

Rhino Trade Insurance 24 April 2023

Trade apprenticeships are a form of paid employment that mix classroom-based study with on-the-job training that results in a formal qualification together with well-rounded experience in a specific role. Anyone over the age of 16 years old is suitable to join an apprenticeship scheme and can begin studying at any level that they are qualified to do so.

Today, we want to discuss some benefits of hiring a trade apprentice for your firm, how the finances work, how to find apprentices, your legal responsibilities, and more. So, whether you manage a major firm, a small, local limited company, or work as a sole trader - You can find everything you need to know about recruiting your next employee and growing your business today. 

The benefits of hiring an apprentice for your tradesman business

The benefits of having a skilled apprentice in your business

In recent years, university graduates have flooded the labour market, meaning apprenticeships and other skills-based study paths fall behind the market's demands. A competent workforce that suits your company's particular requirements can be created by up-skilling current employees and hiring an apprentice

This means that your business can use an apprenticeship to hire a fresh, inexperienced person, hire a seasoned worker who wants to retrain or progress their career or utilise an apprenticeship to enhance the abilities and knowledge of a currently-employed worker.

Here are just a few stats from the government apprenticeship website that show how apprentices improved small businesses:

  • Employers reported that apprenticeships enabled them to develop skills that were useful to their business 86% of the time.
  • 78% of employers claimed that apprenticeships helped increase their productivity.
  • Apprenticeships reportedly benefited 74% of firms in raising the calibre of their goods or services.

One of the greatest benefits an apprenticeship has to offer both employers and workers alike is that they enable organisations to maintain their employees' drive and dedication over the long term by supporting them in developing their abilities over a number of years.

As an apprentice will be working with the understanding that they will earn a qualification and those valuable personal credentials, they will most likely stay around for the long haul. Not only does it benefit them, you, as an employer, can offer more scope to clients once an apprentice is fully trained and time served. 

How do the finances benefit you and your apprentice?

To cover the majority of the costs of your apprentice's training, evaluation, and other related expenses, you can request support from the UK government.

As a smaller business, you pay the course provider 5% of the assessment and training costs. Depending on the financing band your apprentice falls under, the government will pay the remaining 95%.

Additionally, you may be eligible for a £1,000 grant to assist the apprentice at work if they are:

  • Between 16 and 18 years old.
  • Between 19 and 25 with a health, education or car plan.
  • Or aged between 19 and 25 and have been in care.

Your training provider will additionally give you two payments totalling £500 if the apprentice qualifies. The first payment is due after 90 days, and the second is scheduled after a year.

You can find out how the funding of an apprenticeship will work for your business here. When it comes to how much an apprentice should earn, the days of skimping and scraping when training are long gone. Pay has increased throughout the industry due to a lack of trained workers. Depending on the sector, some apprentices in the construction industry can make a fairly cushy salary.

The things that dictate how much an apprentice earns are their age and the level of qualification they are currently at or training towards. As a trade business owner, you will be required to pay the following as the minimum hourly wage:

  • £4.62 - Under 18
  • £6.56 - 18 - 20
  • £8.36 - 21 to 22
  • £8.91 - 23+

It's up to you whether you want to pay more than the legal minimum. As previously mentioned, there is a lack of skilled workers in the trades, so hiring and maintaining employees is becoming more challenging. Offering better benefits and a slight increase could secure better applicants, though not always. When exploring whether to employ an apprentice, an employer needs to remember that another pair of hands may allow them to have a better work-life balance or allow them to expand their business and appeal to more clients. Therefore, over time, the investment should return a nice profit.

The legal requirements for hiring an apprentice

Training and development opportunities for apprentices

Apprentices must complete an approved training programme that lasts at least a year. Depending on the certification level the apprentice is studying, certain courses can take up to 5 years to finish - Engineering, Electrics and Plumbing being some of the longer courses. 

You have to give an apprentice a real job when hiring them. You cannot bend the rules and hire them as cheaper labour. An apprentice's job must allow them to gain the correct abilities and knowledge needed to pass their exams.

To do so, they must:

  • Shadow/ work with experienced tradesmen and women
  • Learn knowledge and skills needed to do specific work
  • Be able to train or study for their relevant skill - this is generally 20% of their regular working week.

Apprentices must be paid for any time spent doing regular work or studying/training towards their apprenticeship certificate. You are also required by law to give them an employment contract. Just like any employee in the UK, they must be granted the exact same rights, benefits, and holiday pay as other workers in your company. The salary they are paid and how many hours they are expected to work, study, or train should be made clear in their employment contract.

For more of an idea of how apprenticeships work across the UK, read our blog here. 

How to find and vet potential apprentices

There are several ways to find an apprentice, but recommendations from family and friends are still the best method. As someone who has been working in the trade industry for a while, you've probably established a few connections. If you want to expand your business and take on a new pair of hands, let your friends and family know, and you could be surprised who offers to apply for the job.

Get the word out by asking your friends and relatives. In the long run, hiring someone you know through a contact might be wiser as you know who they are. If you have a few applicants, set up a meeting at Costa, chat with them and get an impression on how they may take to the trade and why they want to learn this skill. This will allow you to tell them more about the job, the daily activities and where you see the business going in the future. 

Hiring through recognised training providers and colleges is another way to find an apprentice. Often local educational centres will offer trade and training programs that allow students to learn classroom-based skills, but to complete their course, they need real-world experience. As a local tradesman or woman, you could appeal to these organisations and find yourself a new apprentice. The benefit is that they are already enrolled on a course and will be receiving the proper funding. Another advantage is that the apprentice has already chosen that this route is the one they wish to take and are therefore keen to learn without having secured the full on-the-job training. 

How to manage and mentor an apprentice

Apprenticeships help budding tradespeople become time-served professionals who can sufficiently carry out the work required with the right knowledge and skills while also learning how to behave on a building site and with customers. 

As the manager of your own company, you must comply with the rules set out and prepare your apprentice in the best way possible. This includes following the framework or program you set out when hiring the apprentice and committing to the management and mentoring of them throughout the course of their career with you.

To get a better idea of how to manage your apprentice, you can read various guides, but you must aim to cover practical training by having them shadow you when working, setting them small tasks, mentoring them and sharing industry knowledge, visiting relevant industry workshops and firms and attending trade fairs and shows. 

Nothing is more valuable for an apprentice than on-the-job training with a skilled craftsman or woman. Helping to develop their skills and talking them through how things are done will give them much-needed workplace skills and confidence that will pay your business back tenfold. 

After an apprentice finishes their program, through your mentoring and leadership, they should be able to demonstrate how tasks are done safely and competently. 

Why choose Rhino Trade Insurance?

Employing an apprentice should be viewed as an amazing opportunity to add value to your business with the added sprinkling of future-proofing the service customers can receive. By sharing your skills and honed abilities, you're ensuring the next generation of tradespeople have an expert skill set that will keep the industry thriving and your business growing.

Make sure to carry out your own research and assess the long-term benefits to your trade firm before hiring anyone. An apprentice could open up new opportunities and help your firm reach new heights. 

Read more about Employers’ Liability Insurance today, and If you have any questions, contact the team at Rhino Trade Insurance if you're interested in finding out how trade insurance can help your business. For more details and a free quote, go to this page. You can also reach our wonderful UK staff at 0116 243 7904. 

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